Lawrence City Commission to consider contract for outside study of police department

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from Aug. 4, 2020, a Lawrence Police Department patrol vehicle is pictured outside the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.

City leaders will soon decide whether to move forward with an outside study of the Lawrence police department that will help inform potentially fundamental changes to police operations and priorities.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider authorizing a professional services agreement in the amount of $117,833 with Citygate Associates for a comprehensive study of the department and creation of a new master plan. The study will consider significant changes to how the department operates, including the possibility of shifting some duties away from police, and the plan will serve as a guiding document for the department going forward, according to a city staff memo to the commission.

“The master plan will serve as a ‘road map’ for the future development of the department, responsive to community expectations and incorporating best industry practices and evidence-based innovations in service delivery,” the memo states.

The city advertised a request for proposals for the study in July following local and national protests this year about police brutality and systemic racism and Mayor Jennifer Ananda’s subsequent calls for the city to consider various reforms. Ananda called for 12 potential reforms, which her fellow commissioners also later agreed to consider, regarding the role of law enforcement. Those include re-evaluating what kinds of noncriminal behavior police should address and whether money spent on such enforcement should be spent instead on related public and social services.

Citygate Associates emerged as the city’s recommended firm to conduct the study following a competitive selection process among 10 proposals from across the country, according to the memo. The selection process included a selection committee, input from community stakeholders and interviews. The selection panel included nine city staff and nine community stakeholders who represented marginalized community members, policing subject matter experts and representatives of the local police union, the Lawrence Police Officers’ Association.

The study will encompass and gather community input on the 12 issues identified by the commission as well as other areas related to policing, according to the memo. The memo states that the consultant’s recommendations must be informed by public input that is inclusive of and prioritizes marginalized community members.

The final product of the study will be the master plan for the police department, which will include recommendations and strategic direction for the department’s future development. The new master plan will identify issues conventionally handled by police that could instead be handled by alternative, non-police methods.

The City Commission will convene virtually at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, with limited staff in place at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The city has asked that residents participate in the meeting virtually if they are able to do so. Directions for submitting public comment and correspondence are included in the agenda that is available on the city’s website,


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